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December 06, 2003

JOHN KERRY: I may be a loser, but I'm making sure that I'm a loser you won't forget!

UPDATE: Daniel Drezner has observations. And I think we'll be hearing a lot of this kind of thing, too.

FORGET FRED PHELPS: ANTI-GAY MADNESS has infected Australia.

VIA THE GUARDIAN, HERE'S MORE FROM IRAQ:

MAHAWEEL, Iraq (AP) - The killers kept bankers' hours. They showed up for work at the barley field at 9 a.m., trailed by backhoes and three buses filled with blindfolded men, women and children as young as 1.

Every day, witnesses say, the routine was the same: The backhoes dug a trench. Fifty people were led to the edge of the hole and shot, one by one, in the head. The backhoes covered them with dirt, then dug another hole for the next group.

At 5 p.m., the killers - officials of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party - went home to rest up for another day of slaughter.

In this wind-swept field in the central town of Mahaweel, witnesses say, this went on without a break for 35 days in March and April of 1991, during a crackdown on a Shiite Muslim uprising that followed the first Gulf War.

``I watched this with my own eyes,'' said Sayed Abbas Muhsen, 35, whose family farm was appropriated by Saddam's government for use as a killing field. ``But we couldn't tell anyone. We didn't dare.''

The mass grave at Mahaweel, with more than 3,100 sets of remains, is the largest of some 270 such sites across Iraq. They hold upward of 300,000 bodies; some Iraqi political parties estimate there are more than 1 million.

It's worth keeping this sort of thing in mind, among the turkey-related quibbles.

UPDATE: Hey, maybe some people are keeping it in mind:

BAGHDAD — Up to 1,000 Iraqis, including children orphaned by the war that ousted Saddam Hussein, marched through Baghdad yesterday to denounce guerrilla attacks and show support for U.S.-led occupation forces. . . .

Carrying banners blaming Saddam loyalists for terrorism, the demonstrators marched down one of Baghdad's busiest streets before gathering in Firdos Square, where a statue of Saddam was famously pulled down as U.S. troops drove into the heart of the capital in April.

"We organized this demonstration because the terrorists now kill a lot of people," said Abdul Aziz Al-Yassiri, coordinator of the Iraqi Democratic Trend, a recently formed social group.

"They kill the children, kill women, kill the people, kill the police. They want to stop our plan for a democratic system."

Think this will get one-tenth the attention that the turkey got?

HERE'S STILL MORE on the problems with the New York Times' Baghdad Bureau's security operation.

U.S. NEWS IS SPOTLIGHTING THE SAUDI TERROR CONNECTION:

For months, members scoured every piece of data the U.S. intelligence community had on al Qaeda's cash. The team soon realized that its most basic assumptions about the source of bin Laden's money--his personal fortune and businesses in Sudan--were wrong. Dead wrong. Al Qaeda, says William Wechsler, the task force director, was "a constant fundraising machine." And where did it raise most of those funds? The evidence was indisputable: Saudi Arabia. . . .

Examining the Saudi role in terrorism, a senior intelligence analyst says, was "virtually taboo." Even after the embassy bombings in Africa, moves by counterterrorism officials to act against the Saudis were repeatedly rebuffed by senior staff at the State Department and elsewhere who felt that other foreign policy interests outweighed fighting terrorism.

Personally, I'd take a close look at those senior staffers:

Saudi largess encouraged U.S. officials to look the other way, some veteran intelligence officers say. Billions of dollars in contracts, grants, and salaries have gone to a broad range of former U.S. officials who had dealt with the Saudis: ambassadors, CIA station chiefs, even cabinet secretaries.

Hmm. A real close look.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

There are more than a few (somewhat veiled) references to this sort of thing during the British colonial era. A suspiciously large number of British colonial officials retired on substantial pensions paid for by various Sultans and Emirs. I'm most familiar with this from the Sudan, but have seen references to it in the Middle East, too. My point is that the above quote doesn't represent anything new in the tradition of (dare I say it) Anglosphere political interaction in the Dar al-Islam.

Audit these guys. It's interesting to me that Democrats and journalists don't make more of the Bush connection to the Saudis, and how easy the Administration has been on them (though that does seem to be changing a bit now). But I fear that the reason is that a lot of Democrats and journalists have been at the Saudi trough as well.

INTERESTING STORY on WMD and the 45-minute claim.

UPDATE: It's worth reading this thread, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More here.

WE (BLOGGERS) GET RESULTS: The New York Times is correcting altered quotations.

Maureen Dowd, take note.

HOW CONFIDENT IS THE PUBLIC in the news media's patriotism? Not very. This may be unfair, but it's not surprising.

THERE ARE SOME SECTIONS OF TENNESSEE, REVEREND, that I would not advise you to invade:

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. - Greene County is the latest target of a Kansas church that wants to establish monuments condemning a gay man who was murdered in Wyoming in 1998.

County officials vow to fight the attempt by Fred Phelps, pastor of the Topeka, Kan., church, to put a 6-foot granite monument in the Greeneville courthouse. Phelps said if officials do not comply, his group will picket the county.

The response, basically, is "Bring 'em on!"

"If they want to come down here and picket, come on," Greene County Mayor Roger Jones said.

They probably will. I mean, it's not like they've got jobs or anything. Or maybe they do, as this story provides more evidence for my theory, expressed elsewhere, that Fred Phelps is acting suspiciously like a paid provocateur for the ACLU:

The pastor wants the monuments displayed by local governments across the country, said the church's attorney, Shirley Phelps-Roper. She claims a 2002 court ruling requires any government entity that displays the Ten Commandments on public property to also display monuments of other religious groups.

In addition to displaying the Ten Commandments, Greene County government leaders voted recently to recognize a resolution recognizing "God as the foundation of our national heritage." Jones sent copies of the legislation to Tennessee's other 94 county leaders for consideration.

Hmm. If the ACLU isn't funding him, it might as well be!

UPDATE: Reader Bart Hall emails:

I'm from Kansas, where the Phelps family is a fairly well known commodity. Their gig is this -- they attempt to get a harsh reaction. That's why they have kids holding some of the most outrageous signs.

Apart from the deomonstration they have video people to film any interaction with the public or authorities, and they have 'tailers' to follow people back to their car so they can get a name and address. Then they sue. For intimidation, for pain and suffering, for threatening the kids, for anything they can think of.

It's how the Phelps family gets their money.

Ask the attorneys for any church around here. I can put you in touch with ours.

Fred may discover that he's not in Kansas anymore. . . . .

JOHN KERRY ACCUSES BUSH OF CATERING, but WhoKnew observes: "I have a few concerns that there may be a conflict of interest here, given Kerry's position with respect to the condiment industry."

Call the Ethics Police!

I THINK I LIKE THIS UNIVERSE better than these alternate ones.

Paul Krugman may disagree.

CHOMSKY SAYS THAT ANTISEMITISM ISN'T A PROBLEM in the West.

Not to him, it isn't.

JOHN RAY SAYS HE HAS CORROBORATION of the story about thuggish behavior by the New York Times' "security" people in Baghdad.

In response to an earlier post on this topic, a journalist asked me if I thought the NYT shouldn't have bodyguards. No, I just think that they shouldn't act as thugs, as it seems they have. I also think it's funny that stories like this get no attention, except from bloggers. Journalists deal with a lot of unsavory characters in situations like this, where it's not unusual to hire local gunmen as "security," and they distance themselves from their behavior in ways that they would never allow government or military officials to do. Then they black out reporting on these stories, because it's in their professional interest to do so. I don't think that will work as well now that there are alternative channels of communication to the outside world.

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D-IN) on Iraq and Al Qaeda:

"Even if there's only a 10 percent chance that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden would cooperate, the question is whether that's an acceptable level of risk," Bayh told me. "My answer to that would be an unequivocal 'no.' We need to be much more pro-active on eliminating threats before they're imminent."

Asked about the growing evidence of a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, Bayh said: "The relationship seemed to have its roots in mutual exploitation. Saddam Hussein used terrorism for his own ends, and Osama bin Laden used a nation-state for the things that only a nation-state can provide. Some of the intelligence is strong, and some of it is murky. But that's the nature of intelligence on a relationship like this--lots of it is going to be speculation and conjecture. Following 9/11, we await certainty at our peril."

Read the whole thing.

December 05, 2003

SUSANNA CORNETT IS BLOGGING THE EAST COAST SNOWSTORM -- with photos.

GERARD VAN DER LEUN has some thoughts on where Bush-hatred is heading.

GO VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE BLOGGERS over at Wizbang.

JUDGING BY THIS PIECE IN SALON, '60s revivalism isn't playing that well among younger audiences:

I'm standing near the back of New York's Webster Hall, by the radical bookstore's table, when Morello appears onstage with his acoustic guitar. Most of the dozen young people I've met so far have come to hear Morello, so I expect mostly praise from the crowd of sources who surround me. Instead, Mike Levin -- a sideburned graduate student at New York University -- tells me that he's not pleased. "I feel alienated by it," he says. Morello's speech -- including the reference to Iraqis wanting Americans to leave, and a tale of being tear-gassed at the Miami FTAA protests -- seemed "kind of preachy," says Levin, 28. "Kind of clichéd." His cousin Kate, 22, a politically active intern at the Nation magazine, agrees: "It seemed like he was trying to make the music fit the politics."

Four of six fans I speak to offer a similar critique -- Morello and the other artists seem a retread of '60s counterculture that's not quite able to fuse politics and music into a persuasive whole. Some critics simply see holes in the content; Jason Lyons, a tall 24-year-old in baggy jeans, says that he doubts that all Iraqis, or even most, actually want U.S. troops to leave immediately, as Morello claims. Similarly, in Boston, Sheldon found the rhetoric fast and loose. "It wasn't driven by factual evidence," she says. "It was driven by their opinion."


Said Lindsay Sullivan, a fan I met in the Webster Hall stairway: "There's a great message and I agree with it, but there isn't anything new." Her friend Anna Hurley agreed: "There's not much inspiring going on."

According to Danny Goldberg, CEO of Artemis Records and the author of "Dispatches From the Culture Wars: How the Left Lost Teen Spirit," stars tend to alienate their fans "if they become preachy, didactic, too predictable." Despite the artists' best efforts, this seems to be what happened, at least at times, during Tell Us the Truth.

Read the whole thing (you have to sit through an ad, though).

MASS KILLING IN IRAN? Blog Iran sent this story:

Amid burning banks, stores and government offices, at least 30 Baloch protesters are dead and 80 injured in the southeastern city of Saravan near the Pakistani border, said Malek Meerdora, who immigrated to Canada from the city in 1993.

Meerdora told WorldNetDaily the Iranian government has attempted to shut off communication from the city, but he has been in contact with sources there via satellite telephone and the Internet.

The BBC reports five dead, not 30, but its sourcing doesn't seem much better. Stay tuned.

UNEMPLOYMENT DOWN: Minorities and teenagers hardest hit.

UPDATE: Um, hardest hit by the fall in unemployment. Some people didn't get it. But Bill Hobbs has some additional perspective.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Okay, the email keeps coming. Unemployment is down most among them, which is good. Sorry I was being too cute, I guess.

On a related topic, a reader who'd rather I not use his name emails:

Just finished a month in Japan evaluating innovation and competiveness for my company.. Given your recent TCS column on robots, I thought you'd find it interesting how far the concept of "dark factories" has gone in Japan. One of the companies (highly profitable) I visited has a manufacturing plant that can run two months without stopping..no big deal, huh?

Well, the big deal is that this factory is solely robots manufacturing other robots, to the tune of about 50-60/day, big industrial robots too. There isn't a human around for 70 straight days (hence the term "dark factory"..they don't need light to operate). I've got 14 years in Supply Chain and Manufuacturing, but I wasn't prepared for how far machine vision and "fuzzy logic" has already taken us. The robots did everything themselves..there was no artifical set-up of the components or stockroooms.

True, it is a bit of a showpiece, but even I got this eerie Terminator/Matrix feeling watching what I guess is essentially robot reproduction.

Interesting. I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords, er, employees.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Augh! They're everywhere!

HERE'S MORE ON THE CREDIT LYONNAIS / EXECUTIVE LIFE SCANDAL:

PARIS, Dec 5 (Reuters) - French lawmakers demanded answers on Friday over President Jacques Chirac's role in the Executive Life dispute amid speculation he blocked a settlement that did not protect his billionaire friend Francois Pinault. . . .

Besson told Reuters he would raise the matter in parliament next week after a motion to launch a full-blown parliamentary inquiry into the affair was scratched without explanation from the agenda of next Friday's meeting of its finance committee.

"This is going to turn into the Chirac-Pinault affair," said Alain Riou, a senior figure in the opposition Green party, who is also seeking clarification on Chirac's role.

Stay tuned.

SPEAKING OF STEREOTYPES about the South, Jack Neely wonders if the North and South aren't really trading places. As long as we get the fun part, with fast cars and cussing women. . . .

A PATRONIZING NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE ABOUT THE SOUTH that gets facts wrong and relies on outmoded northeastern stereotypes? Hard to imagine, I know, but that's what some people are saying.

UPDATE: Reader George Calhoun emails:

As a recent (relatively - 1994) alumnus, and as a person who toured campus with my wife less than a month ago, I can vouch that there are no confederate flags proudly displayed anywhere at Vanderbilt. (I have to confess, however, that I didn't examine the KA house TOO closely...) I guess facts don't matter. The Times ought to start a Jayson Blair section, and properly identify their creative fiction. Some of it is pretty entertaining if you don't happen to be the target.

Indeed.

DO SOUTH PARK REPUBLICANS EXIST?

Lost in the debate over whether or not SPRs exist and to what extent they are politically relevant is an important and telling irony: Most South Park Republicans would have no idea there is a debate about them. They spend their lives outside the incestuous circles of punditry. We cannot further our understanding of them by quoting members of the political chattering classes.

Some important observations here for both Republicans and Democrats. And this warning for Republicans:

The GOP's hold on South Park Republicans could quickly fade. Their vote is clearly up for grabs. You never know what might be the straw that breaks SPR backs, between GOP spending hikes, tariffs, anti-smoking legislation, and the specter of "conservative" laws that might compromise privacy and liberty.

Indeed. It's an excellent observation that you can only be the "lesser of two evils" so long as the other party is worse.

THE NEW CLASS IS THREATENED BY THE INTERNET, with its intolerance for lies and posturing and its openness to alternative voices. Here's the response:

Leaders from almost 200 countries will convene next week in Geneva to discuss whether an international body such as the United Nations should be in charge of running the Internet, which would be a dramatic departure from the current system, managed largely by U.S. interests.

The representatives, including the heads of state of France, Germany and more than 50 other countries, are expected to attend the World Summit on the Information Society, which also is to analyze the way that Web site and e-mail addresses are doled out, how online disputes are resolved and the thorny question of how to tax Internet-based transactions.

The "new class" types who dominate international bureaucracies can't be expected to take the threat to their position lying down. And, as I've written before, it's a very real threat to them, and to others who profit from silencing people. As blogger-turned-Iranian-Parliamentary-candidate Hossein Derakshan notes: "We can't vote, but we can still say what we really want."

That's a horrifying notion to some, and you can expect more efforts to put a stop to it.

UPDATE: Check out DailySummit.net, which is covering the Geneva summit steadily. They've even got quotes from Arthur C. Clarke.

I FIND MICKEY KAUS'S KERRY WITHDRAWAL SCENARIO plausible, even if it is "quirky and contrarian."

All I can say is that Kerry has done much worse than his on-paper credentials would suggest. Maybe my instincts on his candidacy were right. . . .

December 04, 2003

YOU MAY NOT REALIZE that the University of Tennessee leads the nation -- oh, skip the false modesty, it probably leads the world -- in research on centaurs. But it does.

BRAD DELONG HAS AN INTERESTING POST OFFERING a framework for analyzing the economic impact of nanotechnology. Zack Lynch has some thoughts in reply.

UPDATE: In a related vein, here's evidence that investment in nanotechnology at the moment isn't really driven by fundamentals:

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A growing fascination with nanotechnology seems to be doing wonders for the stock price of Nanometrics Inc.

Too bad the company's only connection with the hot field of molecular-scale machinery is the first four letters of its name and a stock ticker, NANO. But that, apparently, is enough to confuse some investors. . . .

Gerald Fleming, an analyst with Oppenheimer who covers Nanometrics stock, said he received eight to 10 calls on Wednesday from brokers who thought the company had something to do with nanotechnology.

"The company's been around for 25 years, well before nanotechnology was even though of, and it's strictly a coincidence," Fleming said.

Enthusiasm is nice. But it should be informed enthusiasm.

I NEVER THOUGHT THAT JOHN DVORAK'S MUCH-FISKED COLUMN ON BLOGGERS was about me, but here's someone who does. All I can say is, I remember Dvorak predicting that the x86 chip series was going to be shouldered aside by arrays of sped-up Z80 chips. So when he predicts the death of blogs . . . .

STILL QUOTATIONALLY-CHALLENGED at the New York Times?

UPDATE: Reader Greg Wallace writes:

This is going to make me sound old, because it was way back in '78 that I got my BA in journalism. Virtually all of my journalism professors in college taught us that it is acceptable to "clean up" quotes if the context remains intact and the meaning is not altered. My editors throughout the years since have consistently maintained that position. I think the Times is a goiter on the body of journalism, but I'd save this fight for another day.

Funny that nobody else cleaned this one up, though. And while I'm not terribly offended at the practice, I think it's going to raise more hackles in the Internet age where such comparisons are easier.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Don Burton emails:

Contrary to the guy who commented that it was normal to "clean up" language in a quote, I don't think that quite gets the NYT off the hook in this instance. Besides the empirical evidence that no other source saw a need to clean up the football coach's quote, I would add two points:

1. By thinking the quote needed "cleaning up" the NYT is assuming that the coach mispoke, or spoke out of ignorance of grammatically correct English. Unless you're sure either of those is the case, you shouldn't alter the quote. However, I think it's equally likely that the coach a) is comfortable saying "ain't" and is not ashamed to use the colloquial speech of the region; b) uses "ain't" because he knows that coaches are expected to use tough, earthy language; c) wants the fans in Mississippi to know that he's as down-home as them despite his recent sojourn in Yankee-dom; or d) some mixture of a, b, and c. I lean towards possibilty b), but I find it objectionable in any event for the Times just to assume the quote needs cleaning up.

2. As an amateur Timesologist, I suspect what's really behind the change is that the version of PC that seeps into everything the Times reports on dictates that you can't have an African-American public figure saying "ain't."

I agree.

FRANCE'S AIRCRAFT CARRIER, the Charles De Gaulle, has suffered from so many problems that the French are looking to buy British:

Actually, the French had planned to build a second nuclear powered carrier, but they are having so many problems with the first one that they are quite reluctant about building another one. Britain is building two 50,000 ton conventionally powered carriers, at a cost of $2.5 billion each. France would order a third of this class, and bring down the cost of all three a bit. The new French nuclear carrier "Charles de Gaulle" has suffered from a seemingly endless string of problems. The 40,000 ton ship has cost over four billion dollars so far and is slower than the diesel powered carrier it replaced. Flaws in the "de Gaulle" have led it to using the propellers from it predecessor, the "Foch," because the ones built for "de Gaulle" never worked right. Worse, the nuclear reactor installation was done poorly, exposing the engine crew to five times the allowable annual dose of radiation. There were also problems with the design of the deck, making it impossible to operate the E-2 radar aircraft that are essential to defending the ship and controlling offensive operations. Many other key components of the ship did not work correctly, and the carrier has been under constant repair and modification. The "de Gaulle" took eleven years to build (1988-99) and was not ready for service until late 2000. It's been downhill ever since.

Sheesh. Makes our military procurement look good.

UPDATE: Here's an appalling alternative proposal -- that Britain and France actually take joint ownership of the aircraft carriers. Best response: "But previous experience with the French leads one to believe that such arrangements, while desirable in principle, could be very difficult in practice."

HOW I FEEL ABOUT THIS depends on how it's executed:

President Bush wants to send Americans back to the moon — and may leave a permanent presence there — in a bold new vision for space exploration, administration officials said yesterday.

Permanent human presence on the Moon: great. Big NASA project that NASA will screw up: not so great. Likelihood of getting the latter: high. Likelihood of getting the former: Not as high. Likelihood of getting the latter without the former actually coming about: highest.

To NASA: Sorry. I love you guys. But that's the track record since, oh, sometime before I hit puberty. Or maybe before I learned to walk. Or maybe before I was born. . . .

JEFF JARVIS HAS COMMENTS on the revival of European anti-Semitism. And that reminds me that I meant to link to the suppressed EU report on that topic yesterday, but got distracted and forgot.

CHRISTMAS TREES AND PROSTITUTION: Equivalent in the eyes of some.

UPDATE: Reader Richard Andrews emails: "Maybe the headline should have been: Ho, ho, ho..."

Heh, heh, heh.

MY LOCAL ALT-WEEKLY has a guest column on the UT Issues Committee scandal, contrasting the University's behavior in this case with its rather more vigorous response when some frat guys wore blackface last year. The columnist believes that the University should have responded as harshly this time as it did before. I'm not sure I agree with that. Its action (as it eventually admitted) was wrong in the blackface affair, and it certainly shouldn't behave wrongly again. On the other hand, the disparity in treatment is certainly undeniable.

Perhaps the University should stand up more boldly for free speech, and a diversity of ideas, as a general matter, and put its money where its mouth is in supporting the latter. That would put to rest any questions of bias.

Come to think of it, that's what all universities should do, isn't it?

UPDATE: UT blogger Adam Groves has some thoughts.

MAUREEN RYAN, who has written a few articles about blogs for the Chicago Tribune, has now started one herself. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated . . . .

"PARENTAL PATRONIZING:" Doonesbury gets an unfavorable review. I think it never recovered from Trudeau's lengthy hiatus. Plus, few cartoons stay funny for that long -- which is why Bill Watterson deserves credit for quitting while he was at the top of his game.

DOES ISLAM NEED A POPE? Andrew Sullivan isn't sure what to make of this, and neither am I.

SO MAYBE POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEES ARE OKAY: Parasites can be our friends.

AUSTIN BAY IS ELABORATELY PRAISING THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, part of it, anyway.

UPDATE: Related observations here -- scroll down to "listening to Iraqis."

RADLEY BALKO SAYS that they're trying to sneak prohibition back in. (He's got a longer paper on this here.)

I think that we ought to start a movement to lower the drinking age to 18, where it was before Liddy Dole and Nancy Reagan got involved. The best defense is a good offense.

THE NINTH CIRCUIT'S MACHINE GUN OPINION seems to be influencing people elsewhere in the nation.

MICKEY KAUS WRITES:

As Jeanne Cummings' outstanding, worth-digging-up 12/2 Wall Street Journal piece makes clear, the new Democratic Party, for presidential purposes, isn't the Democratic Party. It's a just-formed group called America Votes, which plans to coordinate the various "independent" committees (many of the so-called "527" non-profits) that can still, after McCain-Feingold, gather unlimited "soft" donations and spend them on campaign ads and voter mobilization. ... If the old Democratic Party version of the Democratic Party was too beholden to liberal interest groups, the new America Votes version of the Democratic Party is liberal interest groups.

There's a larger lesson here. The one pretty clear effect of campaign finance "reform" has been to weaken traditional party structures to the benefit of discrete special interests. It's not clear that this development has been good for politics, or even for honesty in politics. At best it produces only the appearance of honesty -- and I'd say it's failing even at that nowadays. (Hey, somebody should write a book on that!) But perhaps, as Kaus suggests (you should read his whole post), Internet fundraising will save us.

PERSONALLY, I THINK THAT SANTA SHOULD bring this kid a lump of coal.

A READER SENDS THIS PHOTO and this one of Bush actually serving turkey to the troops and says this explodes the pseudo scandal. Pseudo scandal?

Not knowing what he meant, I went looking and found this turkey story by Mike Allen in the Washington Post raising that issue ("the foray has opened new credibility questions").

Yes, it has opened new credibility questions. But, er, not so much for Bush as for his critics. Sheesh.

UPDATE: More on "Turkeygate" here, here, here, here, here, and especially here. Meanwhile reader Elizabeth King emails:

I just read the Washington Post article you linked about the pseudo-turkey scandal (Or turkey pseudo-scandal. Or whatever. Pseudo-reporting scandal is more like it, I think.) I now have an urge to rant that I can't bottle up anymore. You don't have to read this, but I really need to say it.

I am SICK AND TIRED of our media. I am SICK AND TIRED of the superficial nature of their reporting on Iraq and their incessant preaching of quagmirism. I am SICK AND TIRED of their efforts to turn every U.S. military action into Vietnam, all facts to the contrary be damned. And I am SICK AND TIRED of 16-words-gate and Plame-gate and mission-accomplished-gate and now, God help us, turkey-gate.

We live in momentous times, and our media -- the freest and most technologically advanced media in the history of the world -- is mired in 60's nostalgia, conspiracy theories and banality.

Sorry about the rant, but I feel better now.

And reader Susan Shepard emails:

I cannot believe this fabricated "flap" about Bush and the turkey. What are these people thinking of? I can't imagine a bigger non-issue. Every time someone on the left or in the mainstream media starts in with something like this they just make themselves look more foolish. Surely sooner or later even less politically aware people have to stop and think, "Wait a minute, this is getting just a little too ridiculous." I guess in the long run conservatives come out on top in such situations, but it is painful to watch people self-destruct, even people with whom I profoundly disagree.

I swear, I think Karl Rove must pay people to drum up stories like this. Or would that be to drumstick . . . nah, never mind.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Democrat Jeff Haws gets it:

I'm as quick to criticize Bush as anyone, but had anybody even seen that turkey photo before this "pseudo scandal" broke out over it? I know I hadn't. If anyone's opinion of Bush changed because they thought the turkey he held up in a photo looked rather tasty, that's a sad state of affairs for the American electorate. Bush hypercritics will say it's all about the White House trying to put forth an "image," but they key sentence in that Post story is this: "The scene, which lasted just a few seconds, was not visible to a reporter who was there but was recorded by a pool photographer and described by officials yesterday in response to questions raised in Washington" (emphasis added).

I want to beat this guy in the next election. Latching onto issues such as what kind of turkey Bush is holding up will just polarize voters even more and assure his reelection. Not smart.

No, it isn't.

MORE: A military reader sends this:

This turkey business is ludicrous. I've eaten in mess halls at Thanksgiving over the course of my nine years in the Army and I have always seen a fancy turkey that was for display and not for consumption. Like the cornucopias and every other festive trimming, the "show turkey" is a routine part of the presentation for the soldiers eating in the mess hall. When I saw this article on Drudge Report last night, I nearly choked. In the midst of everything important that is going, the fact that people find this newsworthy is simply stunning in its absurdity.

Indeed.


FINAL UPDATE: Definitive roundup here.

"TRANSBLOGRIFICATION" -- Ralph Luker has a new blog, and has coined a cool new word.

December 03, 2003

EUGENE VOLOKH THINKS THAT Slate is being unfair to John Kerry. And to his wife.

ANTHRAX UPDATE: Science has big coverage of the anthrax attacks now, but you can't read it unless you subscribe. But Derek Lowe has an interesting -- and troubling -- post. This deserves more attention.

PATRIOT ACT ABUSE? Sounds like it:

WASHINGTON — Critics of the Patriot Act (search) say the 2001 law, which was intended to enhance police powers to track terrorists, has recently been misused to investigate a political scandal in Las Vegas.

The same folks who warned that provisions in the Patriot Act are too far-reaching and could infringe on the civil liberties of regular Americans say the Las Vegas case is the first — but certainly not the last — example of federal law enforcement using its broadened surveillance powers to prosecute domestic criminals who do not threaten national security. . . .

According to an FBI official in Las Vegas, investigators used a provision in the Patriot Act that allows investigators easy access to the financial records of persons suspected of terrorism or money laundering.

Some experts say that technically speaking, the FBI had the authority to use the Patriot Act to expedite their case against the club owners. But that doesn't mean that it doesn't immediately raise red flags about the design of the Patriot Act, which Attorney General John Ashcroft has firmly insisted is for the sake of national security only.

This sort of abuse proves the critics right.

GEORGE MONBIOT is Fisked for some silly statements about oil.

"DARK GERMAN OUTLOOK ENCOURAGES GERMAN RESISTANCE: Underground War is Believed Likely if We Fail in Our Major Purposes." Read the whole thing. Excerpt:

One does not encounter the awareness of future problems among Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence officers in the United States zone which might be expected. Since the Army, or rather most o fits officers in Germany, persist in viewing everything connected with the occupation through rose-colored glasses, it is the opinion of this correspondent at least that incidents foreshadowing the growth of national resistance are not given their proper weight.

Attacks on anti-Nazi German editors now in charge of newspapers in the United States zone illustrate this tendency.

As mentioned in an earlier post, we tend to forget just how messy and drawn out the postwar experience in Germany was.

HERE'S AN ACADEMIC ARTICLE ON the role of weblogs in the Trent Lott affair, from Georgetown.

UPDATE: Read it together with this post by Jeff Jarvis on journalism in an age of transparency.

And, for proof, scroll down one item on Jarvis's blog, as he catches some journalist-bloggers in a game of blog-telephone.

CHIEF WIGGLES WILL BE ON FOX TONIGHT, around 7 ET. Also, I understand that Brit Hume's show will have a segment on the failure of English gun control, which should interest some.

UPDATE: Donald Sensing has posted some video grabs from the Fox story on Chief Wiggles here. Pretty cool stuff.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Austin Bay emails:

Chief Wiggles showed up on Brit Hume at 5:17pm CST. The chief warrant officer is another example of how small steps mount up. The trouble is, until the Internet, small steps beyond the ken of "the media culture" went unnoticed. I was listening to C-SPAN this morning and heard a Jackie Judd interview with Bono. Now that's a changed man and he admitted it. He's finally met conservatives who are as interested as he is in effective developmental aid in sub-Saharan Africa. Well, Bono my bro, those folks aren't new to African aid - and now he knows that's true. There are hundreds of "small step programs" that have made a difference, but they didn't get the broad attention they deserve until...sheesh, until the Internet. Chief Wiggles shows you can make a difference with your own small developmental aid program. It's great to see him on tv.

Yes, it is.

RUMSFELD'S AWARDS: It's interesting what they report, and what they don't.

BUSH HAS SIGNED THE NANOTECHNOLOGY BILL: Here's the White House press release.

THE EXECUTIVE LIFE / CREDIT LYONNAIS SCANDAL looks likely to go to court:

US prosecutors said they would pursue a criminal probe into French bank Credit Lyonnais' purchase of US insurer Executive Life and ruled out fresh settlement talks with France.

"Further discussions at this time would be unproductive and further delay could prejudice our investigation," US Attorney's spokesman Thom Mrozek said.

"Accordingly, we will now push forward toward a conclusion of our investigation. We expect there will be further announcements concerning this matter in the near future," he said.

The move by exasperated US prosecutors could have dramatic consequences for the French Government, Credit Lyonnais and other French parties in the scandal as it opens the way for criminal charges to be filed against them.

Criminal charges that would lead to a long, complex and embarrassing trial or - more likely - to a plea bargain that could result in formally state-owned Credit Lyonnais losing its precious US banking licence.

Want to bet that some people who were all for the International Criminal Court will start talking about the importance of sovereignty and the likelihood that international prosecutions might be politically motivated?

And why is this story getting so little attention in the American media? It seems like a big deal to me, with significant implications. There's more background here and here.

HOWARD BASHMAN NOTES that several blogs, including InstaPundit, are mentioned in this 9th Circuit opinion. The opinion is a dissent from denial of rehearing en banc on a case that Bashman had earlier mentioned here. The upshot: Libel immunity for bloggers regarding comments by others hasn't been reduced, but several bloggers get mentioned. Win/win!

UPDATE: Andrew Lloyd notes: "That dissent doesn't even define the word 'blog' -- now THAT'S progress."

THIS SEEMS LIKE GOOD NEWS FROM AFGHANISTAN:

Afghanistan's two main northern warlords handed over dozens of tanks and heavy guns Tuesday, putting aside their personal hostility and placing a measure of trust in the U.S.-backed government of President Hamid Karzai. . . .

The weaponry was surrendered to the new Afghan National Army under a deal between the warlords brokered with the help of British peacekeepers.

Interesting.

THE BLOGGING OF THE PRESIDENT wants your thoughts on how the Internet is affecting the elections. Follow the link for more information.

RICH, BLOGGY GOODNESS: This week's Carnival of the Vanities is up. Check out all sorts of posts from all sorts of bloggers, most of 'em more interesting than me!

OKAY, I'M OFFICIALLY PRONOUNCING THE PLAME SCANDAL BOGUS:

Former ambassador Joseph Wilson has been quite protective of his wife, Valerie Plame, in the weeks since her cover as a CIA operative was blown.

"My wife has made it very clear that -- she has authorized me to say this -- she would rather chop off her right arm than say anything to the press and she will not allow herself to be photographed," he declared in October on "Meet the Press."

But that was before Vanity Fair came calling.

The January issue features a two-page photo of Wilson and the woman the magazine calls "the most famous female spy in America," a "slim 40-year-old with white-blond hair and a big, bright smile." They are sitting in their Jaguar.

No word on whether she's missing an arm. . . . Wilson says the pictures won't identify her. Sorry -- if you're really an undercover spy, and really worried about national security, you don't do this sort of thing. Unless, perhaps, you're a self-promoter first, and a spy second. Or your husband is.

UPDATE: Reader Ira Ozarin emails:

I read the WashPost article via the Instapundit link. You neglected to point out an interesting detail in the article:

Plame may be the most well-known figure in a modern Washington scandal whose face is unknown. The Justice Department is now investigating which senior administration officials leaked Plame's CIA role to columnist Robert Novak after Wilson began debunking President Bush's State of the Union claim that Iraq had tried to buy "yellowcake" uranium from Niger. (my emphasis)

Do the Post people still not know that Bush never said anything about yellowcake and Niger in the State of the U address, or is that something we're all supposed to just 'know' was true? Or maybe they just don't fact-check anymore?

Sadly, I'm so used to seeing that that I didn't even notice. Sigh. Sorry. Thanks to everyone (there were quite a few emails along these lines) who pointed it out.

Meanwhile a couple of readers wrote to say that Plame's cover (assuming that there was one) has already been "blown," so what's the problem with doing an Vanity Fair spread. Hmm. It was "blown" in October, too, when she said she couldn't be photographed. (And if the "it's already blown" analysis applies, why the self-dramatizing stuff about how she can't be recognized from these photos?)

Serious people don't do self-promoting spreads in Vanity Fair where important questions of national security are involved. Self-promoters (Wilson is trying to pitch a book, the article reports) do. Not knowing the underlying facts, I have to make my judgment by the behavior of the parties. And judging from that, the scandal is bogus, and Wilson is a self-promoter who can't be trusted. That's my judgment on this matter. Yours, of course, may vary. But if you see Wilson as anything other than a cheesy opportunist, well, then yours really varies.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Robert Tagorda is a bit more measured:

Glenn proclaims the scandal "bogus." Though I hesitate to sign on to the proclamation just yet, I frankly wouldn't be surprised to learn down the line that the matter was overblown, given the Wilson couple's act.

Here's what irks me the most: Wilson claims that the White House leaked his wife's identity for political reasons. Yet he's using the scandal for similarly ignoble reasons, including book deals. To be sure, the leak is far more serious. But there's something very unsettling about how Wilson criticizes the administration for inappropriately using intelligence when he himself fails to treat the matter with the delicacy it deserves.

I can understand if he's railing against the Bush inner circle in the interest of exposing its alleged thuggery. I can also understand if Plame's out in public and photographers just happen to snap a shot. But posing for a magazine, even if "disguised," indicates a slimy agenda.

What he said.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Roger Simon weighs in: "Wilson, obviously, is no George Smiley--he's more of a 'Smiley George.'" [LATER: Lots of interesting comments on Simon's post.]

MORE: A snarky reader points out that Bush was in Vanity Fair. Um, yeah, and I guess that would matter if he were, you know, claiming to have a secret identity or something.

MORE STILL: Slate's "Whopper of the Week" ("Goodbye Plamegate") has the photographs, which leave little to the imagination, and observes:

Plame's extended striptease, enthusiastically touted by her husband, now has Chatterbox wondering how much of Wilson's story to believe. (It also has Chatterbox wondering when the couple will start renting themselves out for birthday parties.)

Indeed. And if this were a serious matter, would they be acting that way?

STILL MORE: Tom Maguire says I told you so. He also notes that saying that Wilson is bogus isn't quite the same as saying that the scandal is bogus. I guess that's right, in theory. But the claim that Plame was endangered is what drove this scandal, and it came from Wilson, who seems to be, well, bogus. (Read this, too). I suppose it's still theoretically possible that somebody in the White House deliberately and illegally outed Plame as a way of getting revenge on Wilson for his dumb -- and deeply unprofessional -- oped about his "mission" to Niger. But if you assume that nothing that Wilson says can be relied on because he's a self-promoter who'll stretch a fact to get attention, which seems extremely plausible, then you're not left with much evidence. And the Wilson/Plame couple certainly isn't acting like Plame's life is in danger. They're acting like opportunists milking their 15 minutes and hoping for a lucrative book contract. So pardon me if I conclude that their actions speak louder than Wilson's words.

This is deeply disappointing to the people who were entertaining an almost-religious faith that this would be the scandal that would bring down Bush. But such disappointments seem to be their lot.

REPUBLICAN BUT NOT CONSERVATIVE? Here's another take on the whole "South Park Republican" issue, from Popshot magazine.

DEREK LOWE comments on the Eric Drexler / Richard Smalley nanotechnology debate mentioned here earlier:

As a chemist, I've more than a passing interest in this field. Nanotechnology is chemistry, through and through. It's done (going to be done, I should say, if Drexler's right) by other means than the ones I'm used to, but it's atoms and bonds all the way. As a solution-phase classical organic chemist, I look on the advent of what Drexler calls "machine-phase" synthesis with equal parts anticipation and dread. The dread isn't because of some looming catastrophe, just the fear that I'll eventually be invented out of a job.

It's those damn robots again. . . . He promises a longer post in the near future, which I look forward to reading.

WINDS OF CHANGE has a roundup of African stories that you probably haven't seen elsewhere. And there's a link to BlogAfrica, a collection of African blogs.

ROBOT NATION: My TechCentralStation column is up. " It's easy to point out that people have been predicting the end of employment due to automation for a century or two now, and that so far they've been utterly wrong. But, of course, to say that they've been wrong so far isn't the same as saying that they'll be wrong forever."

INTERESTING NEW INTERNET TACTIC, from Howard Dean -- he's getting his supporters to donate money to other Democratic candidates. Dave Cullen notes: "What a clever way to win the undying love of one of the most powerful Dem politicians in the critical state 47 days before the caucus?"

AARON'S RANTBLOG HAS PHOTOS from the Luvya Dubya rally in Hollywood last night, held in response to (and across the street from) various entertainment-industry folks' "hate Bush event."

It's a topsy turvy world, when something called "Aaron's Rantblog" is showing more love than a bunch of Hollywood types. Or maybe it's not. . . .

TOM PAINE HAS A PROPOSAL for dealing with increasing amounts of anti-semitic violence in Europe: "What would the political effect be of several hundred American, Australian, New Zealand and English Jews being deployed in key continental cities to patrol neighbourhoods where attacks on Jews have taken place?"

FOR THE SECOND YEAR IN A ROW, InstaPundit has been voted both the "most overrated blog" and the "best blog overall." Hey, it's not logically inconsistent. . . .

December 02, 2003

I MEANT TO LINK TO THIS TERRIFIC DAVID BROOKS COLUMN earlier today, but got distracted. I won't excerpt it -- just read the whole thing. And note how much of it is explicitly shaped by what he's read via soldiers' weblogs.

DNA EXTRACTION: Now via a kids' toy.

HERE'S AN EARLY BLOG REVIEW OF THE RETURN OF THE KING:

The audience was made up of jaded film critics and theater owners, and had only about 50 people in attendance. But spontaneous applause and cheering broke out three times and I myself got misty in more than one place. That might be the film just reminding me of the great scene in the novel, but I still give Jackson some props for getting the emotions right.

Read the whole thing.

MICKEY KAUS continues to watch Hillary Clinton like a hawk.

JEFF JARVIS ON HOWARD DEAN:

He's going to meddle in news. He's going to decree who can and can't own media outlets. He's going to break up companies for sport and political pandering. He's not concerned with the First Amendment. He's not concerned with the realities of the media business today.

I predict that Howard Dean's relationship with the media is about to turn stormy.

JOE KATZMAN:

Staring at their shattered idols, they all blame the same set of demons for the destruction of their gods: capitalism, modernity, the bourgeois mentality. And what do you get when you cross all 3? Symbolically, you get Jews... and you get America.

Indeed. But that's an unwise choice of enemies.

BLOGGER BRIAN O'CONNELL is quoted in The Telegraph too, as well as in the New York Post as mentioned earlier.

A LUVYA DUBYA RALLY at the Beverly Hilton on Wilshire Blvd? Yep, and it's tonight. I wonder how many will show up.

GHOSTS OF OCCUPATIONS PAST: Another interesting story from the 1946 New York Times:

U.S. PRESTIGE DROPS AFTER GI PROTESTS
By DREW MIDDLETON By Wireless to THE NEW YORK TIMES.

The recent protests in Frankfort on the Main, Berlin, and elsewhere in Germany in which United States troops clamored to be returned home, have done more than anything else to lower the prestige of the United States in the eyes of the German population and weaken the authority of the military government, according to a high-ranking United States officer here.

Read the whole thing. Observation: "In our idealization of the past, we sometimes forget how bad and messy things got on the ground."

MICHAEL NOVAK writes that people are always misunderestimating Bush. I think that they're falling victim to his strategery.

Actually, I do think that.

OLIVER WILLIS IS REPORTING a comfy-chair counterrevolution. Hmm. I haven't seen this in my area, but if Borders pulls its comfy chairs, then I won't have any reason not to buy all my books from Amazon, will I?

Oliver's take: "It sucks." I agree.

UNFORCED ERROR, INDEED: This article in The New Republic says that U.S. policy is costing us influence in majority-Muslim Suriname ("while Islam is the majority faith in this nation of 450,000, there are significant minorities of Christians, Jews, Hindus, and animists"). I'm entirely prepared to believe that we're blowing the diplomacy, but the CIA factbook shows this breakdown of religions:

Hindu 27.4%, Muslim 19.6%, Roman Catholic 22.8%, Protestant 25.2% (predominantly Moravian), indigenous beliefs 5%

That would make Islam the third-largest religion in Suriname (or fourth if you count Catholic and Protestant as separate), and nowhere near a majority. (And this figure seems consistent, based on Google. Even the rather, um, optimistic Ummah.com claims only 25% Muslims for Suriname, and pretty much everyone else is at the CIA figure.). The rest of the analysis may well be true -- I'm no expert on Suriname -- but this doesn't exactly build confidence. I once made a similar mistake with regard to Malawi, but then, I'm not a Soref Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and I wasn't holding myself out as having, you know, actual firsthand knowledge of Malawi. Then again, Suriname isn't in the Near East!

IT'S EASY TO MAKE FUN OF THIS AS A "FRENCH QUAGMIRE," BUT IT'S ACTUALLY BAD NEWS:

For a second day, French soldiers fired tear gas and stun grenades into the crowd, which started gathering on Monday at the base in Ivory Coast's commercial capital, Abidjan.

Pro-government militias also delivered an ultimatum on Tuesday to the French: French peacekeepers had until 8pm on Tuesday to withdraw from the West African nation's ceasefire lines.

If not, militia leaders and youth groups said, their fighters would open attacks on the estimated 16 000 French civilians and 4 000 French troops living in Ivory Coast.

"All that is French will be attacked," pledged Narcisse N'Depo, a youth leader outside the French military base.

I'm pretty sure that this is a bad thing.

UPDATE: Reader Phil Beckman wants his schadenfreude, and he wants it now:

Not only is it easy to make fun of this as a "French Quagmire," it is actually enjoyable. Now understand that I have great sympathy for the people of the Ivory Coast and wish them only the best, but the French are supposed to be (by their own admission no less) this ancient, experienced, wise culture which has achieved some kind of transcendent state where problems are solved through peaceful negotiations rather than through brute force. And despite the fact that for some apparently inexplicable reason they keep failing, they never adjust their philosophy, strategy or view of themselves to the reality they face.

It is amazing that a nation like France that has achieved so much in the arts, sciences, philosophy and other fields could be so utterly incompetent in the field of international affairs (and so blind to this fact). One of these days they are going to learn from their mistakes; until then, I will enjoy the entertainment value they provide.

Well, making fun of the French is always appealing -- to all sorts of people -- but I think that this is a good time and place to resist the temptation. I will admit, however, that the poor French reception in the Ivory Coast tends -- as does history in general, as Beckman rightly points out -- to call French expertise into question. But it's possible to point that out without gloating at genuine misfortune. The only thing I'm not entirely sure about is whether the French are in the right here. I think that they are, but I'm not familiar enough with the facts on the ground to be sure.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Snarky reader Nicholas Tortorelli sends this link and suggests a contradiction. I don't see why. In the earlier post I was suggesting that we dilute French influence in the area. That's not the same as hoping for a humanitarian crisis. Frankly, encouraging armed action against the French would be justifiable in my opinion, given that they're doing the same thing against us in many places. So far, it's one-sided proxy war. But even if it became two-sided I wouldn't gloat over it. As Abraham Lincoln said, "War's a bummer, man. So don't you be gloating about it, dude."

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: D'oh! It seems I completely missed the point of Tortorelli's email. He writes again:

I wasn't implying a contradiction or anything, and it never even crossed my mind that you would want French death in order to expand U.S. influence. I was just trying to show, with your earlier help, how the French got themselves into such a sticky situation in the first place.

Excuse me if I sounded "snarky", I was just trying to be brief.

Yeah, I have that problem occasionally myself. As Abraham Lincoln said, "Blogging and email are hard. I'm glad they haven't been invented yet." Or was it Caesar who said that?

EUGENE VOLOKH ON LIBRARY PRIVACY:

I sympathize with objections to the government gathering library or bookstore records, especially without a warrant and probable cause. Such practices can indeed deter people's reading what they want to read.

But what about the government interviewing a suspect's friends about what he said or wrote to them, or subpoenaing them to testify or bring their records? That would deter people's saying what they want to say, and e-mailing what they want to e-mail -- at least as much exercises of one's First Amendment rights as borrowing a book from a library. And people are in fact sometimes deterred this way.

Read the whole thing. One big difference is that librarians and booksellers are organized in a way that conversationalists are not. That's not necessarily bad -- it's as likely to be a sign that conversation is underprotected as that reading is overprotected -- but it's a difference worth noting.

DONALD SENSING wants to be a victim. Sorry, Donald, you don't have the character for it.

JAMES LILEKS OFFERS thoughts on statuary.

STEVE VERDON IS analyzing Howard Dean's economic package and is unimpressed.

On the other hand, fellow Democrat Dick Gephardt is spotlighting his package for the electorate, and, well, I think a lot of people will be surprised at just how impressive it is. . . .

WESLEY CLARK / WACO UPDATE: Be sure to read the update to this post on the claims that Wesley Clark was involved in the Waco massacre. As I suspected, those claims appear to be bogus, and Clark's involvement minimal.

SOUNDS LIKE GOOD NEWS:

U.S. troops may have killed or arrested Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Saddam Hussein's top former deputy suspected of leading the anti-U.S. insurgency, an Iraqi official said Tuesday. Officials of the U.S.-led coalition in Baghdad said they had no information on the report.

Al-Douri -- the highest-ranked Iraqi fugitive after Saddam -- may have been arrested or killed in a U.S. raid in Kirkuk in northern Iraq, a senior Kurdish official in Kirkuk said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The sourcing seems a bit thin on this one, so stay tuned. I certainly hope it's true.

UPDATE: This Reuters story seems a bit more certain that it's true.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Looks like it's not true after all. Remember: initial reports are usually wrong.

ANOTHER STUDY (this one from Canada) says that gun laws don't reduce crime:

Vancouver, BC - Restrictive firearm legislation has failed to reduce gun violence in Australia, Canada, or Great Britain. The policy of confiscating guns has been an expensive failure, according to a new paper The Failed Experiment: Gun Control and Public Safety in Canada, Australia, England and Wales, released today by The Fraser Institute. . . .

Disarming the public has not reduced criminal violence in any country examined in this study. In all these cases, disarming the public has been ineffective, expensive, and often counter productive. In all cases, the effort meant setting up expensive bureaucracies that produce no noticeable improvement to public safety or have made the situation worse.

Here's a link to the study itself. Add this to the CDC study mentioned here earlier (which "found no conclusive evidence that gun control laws help to prevent violent crime, suicides and accidental injuries in the United States") and the case for gun control seems to be growing steadily weaker.

UPDATE: Michael Last has posted a critique of the Mauser study. I don't know much about the statistical criminology stuff, but I believe that Mauser is a reputable guy. Last is apparently a statistician, but admits he didn't read the whole study -- he stopped when he saw a graph whose layout looked deceptive to him. Read it and draw your own conclusions. The fact that I haven't gotten an angry email from Tim Lambert, however, suggests that the study's probably pretty strong overall. . . .

BLOGGER BRIAN O'CONNELL gets a mention in the New York Post.

THE BBC -- SLOW, BUT EDUCABLE:

According to what is described as the first truly representative survey of Iraqi opinion, people in Iraq believe that the best thing that happened in the past 12 months was the demise of Saddam Hussein's regime.

The thing they want most over the next year is peace and stability, and the preferred form of government is an Iraqi democracy.

Imagine.

"ME TOO" REPUBLICANISM: Pejman Yousefzadeh joins the many arguing that the Republican party is abandoning its small-government principles. Jim Pinkerton looks at the same phenomenon and isn't especially happy, but observes:

I don't agree with everything that Bush is doing, not by a mile. But personal preference aside, one must recognize that he is not only president, he's also popular. The non-conservative worldview of South Park Republicanism, or Right-wingerism, is in the ascendancy.

Two interesting perspectives.

JEWISH WORLD REVIEW REPORTS that:

[P]rominent religious conservatives — Jews, Catholics and Evangelical Christians — are allied with a radical Islamic group to stop gay marriage.

Politics makes strange bedfellows, but just as with antiwar people who align themselves with A.N.S.W.E.R., if you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

FIRST IT WAS THE WHOLE MADONNA / WHORE THING, but that was banished as politically incorrect. So now we get the "Dad / Cad phenomenon" to take its place. And this is an improvement, how? . . .

CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL WRITES on the decline of France and the rise of the far-left / Islamist alliance. Belmont Club predicts that the far left will eventually be captured by Islam rather than allied with it.

December 01, 2003

FIRST IT WAS THE FAKE JULIUS CAESAR QUOTE about banging the drums of war. (More here). Now it's a fake Lincoln quote:

"There's no honorable way to kill, no gentle way to destroy. There's nothing good in war except its ending." Attributed to Lincoln by anti-war protesters earlier this year, the statement actually was made by an actor portraying Lincoln in an episode of "Star Trek."

Hey, close enough!

STEVEN DEN BESTE: "We don't want to kill you, and we don't want you to surrender to us. We just want you to stop your fellow Muslims from trying to kill us. Do that, and this war is over."

UPDATE: Venkat Balasubramani disagrees.

IT'S BIZARRO-WORLD: Democrat Mickey Kaus responds to the defense of Hillary Clinton by conservatives Howard Owens and Bill Herbert:

Hillary's criticism isn't a real criticism or an honest criticism, it's a strategic, partisan criticism, and it's the sort of un-straight talk she should drop when she's talking to the troops in a war zone.

I should add that until Hillary's Iraq trip, I--like many Democrats surveying the current presidential candidates--had been feeling strange new respect for her. Now I remember why I used to loathe her.

Ouch.

PAUL KRUGMAN writes on problems with electronic voting.

All I can say is, indeed.

THE FBI AND LIBRARIES: Here's an actual report of FBI agents at a library -- though on closer inspection it doesn't reveal that they were actually snooping on patrons. I'm all for people having privacy in what books they check out, though I think that the relationship between the Patriot Act and libraries is, as this columnist is honest enough to note, less direct than one might think. And that underscores a problem with the arguments over this topic.

I doubt, for example, that the American Library Association, or NPR, thinks that financial privacy is as important as the privacy of library circulation records, but I'd be interested to see them make the case that one is more closely connected to preserving freedom than the other.

As a longterm critic of the Patriot Act, I'd be fairly easy to persuade on the importance of both kinds of privacy. I'd just like to see people try a bit harder, instead of taking it for granted.

EUGENE VOLOKH is being harsh again -- and, again, it's richly deserved.

"SARANDONISTAS?" Actually, not a bad term.

HERE'S AN INTERESTING PROFILE of Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson.

DONALD SENSING has all sorts of interesting stuff. Just keep scrolling.

IRAQI BLOGGER OMAR writes that it wasn't about the oil. Nope, it wasn't. (Best line: "Some Iraqis say that Iraq is a wealthy country and that America came here to steal our fortune, and I ask them what f***ing fortune?") It suits some people to pretend otherwise, but that was always obvious. If it had been about the oil, we would have cut a deal with Saddam for, you know, oil, instead of making it harder for him to sell it.

Interestingly, for the French, it is about the oil -- though even there that probably takes a backseat to power-politics and the joys of anti-Americanism.

IS SELF-EMPLOYMENT BOOSTING THE RECOVERY? I guess I wouldn't be entirely surprised if that turned out to be the case.

THIS STORY CONNECTING WESLEY CLARK WITH THE WACO DEBACLE is getting a fair amount of attention. Goodness knows that "debacle" is the kindest term for what happened at Waco, and that there's blame to go around, but Clark's role here seems to have been rather minimal, and unless there's a lot more to this story than meets the eye -- and I don't think there is -- efforts to tar him with responsibility for that disaster seem rather unfair to me.

The real question -- as it seems to be again and again -- is why the people who were responsible at the FBI and elsewhere weren't fired.

UPDATE: This AP story on Fox News is calling Clark's role "limited." That seems right to me.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's an insider email on Clark's role at Waco. Hit "more" to read it, as it's a bit long.

Read More ?


IT'S NOT JUST A.N.S.W.E.R., according to this report in The Guardian:

The peace movement could be destroyed by the takeover of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Stop the War coalition by Trotskyist groups and the Communist party, according to allegations circulated by a leading campaigner.

The claims have been made by Jimmy Barnes, the veteran leftwing secretary of the trade union CND movement. He has warned in a paper sent to the campaign's national council and the trade union CND executive that "CND itself is now a small divided group with little future, unless there is a change".

It has been well known that the anti-war groups have always been heavily influenced by the far left, but the internal divisions have reached a startling degree of animosity. . . .

Mr Barnes claims the Communist party and Socialist Action sought control of CND in order to use the campaign as a base from which to exert influence over the Stop the War coalition, the loose body which organised the massive protests against the war in Iraq. Mr Barnes asserts the coalition is increasingly dominated by another Trotskyist group, the Socialist Workers party.

Referring to the last CND conference, he claimed "the antagonism we saw at the conference is derivative of the aggressive and sectarian behaviour of those involved in the Stop the War coalition who strove hard to control and dominate the anti-war protest movement".

The communists always seem to have money from somewhere, and they're good organizers, which tempts people to hold their nose and ally with them. But if you let the communists in, they'll either take over, or wreck things. It's the history of the left in the 20th century.

MONTY PYTHON BECOMES REAL LIFE at the University of Virginia. You know, this kind of thing is doing an amazing amount of damage to the reputation of higher education out in the greater world, and most academics don't appreciate the extent of the harm.

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE COCOA:

GAGNOA, Ivory Coast (Reuters) - Three more tribesmen were killed in clashes at the weekend in a major cocoa-growing area of Ivory Coast, bringing the death toll in three days of violence to at least nine, a local official said on Monday.

Local Bete tribesmen have been in conflict with farm workers from outside the area and immigrants around cocoa plantations in the Gagnoa area since Thursday.

The clashes are part of a wider cycle of violence over plantations in the world's top cocoa grower, where a civil war erupted last year and inflamed ethnic tensions.

The French certainly seem to be having a bad time of it in the Ivory Coast:

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) - French soldiers fired tear gas and blanks to expel a rock-throwing mob of government supporters Monday that attacked the main French military base in Ivory Coast's commercial capital. . . .

On Sunday, Ivory Coast soldiers briefly seized control of state television headquarters, broadcasting demands that French and West African peacekeepers leave so armed forces can resume attacks on insurgents.

I wish for things to go well, not badly, in the Ivory Coast, which was quite a nice place by West African standards until recently.

BUSH AND HILLARY IN IRAQ: I've got a roundup of blogosphere reactions over at GlennReynolds.com.

CHEMICAL & ENGINEERING NEWS has a big nanotechnology point-counterpoint on the feasibility of molecular assemblers. This is a big deal.

"Nanotechnology" as a term encompasses all sorts of things, but when people talk about its more sophisticated applications, they generally mean what Eric Drexler (one of the discussants) calls "molecular manufacturing," using molecular assemblers. Whether the more exciting and spooky applications of nanotechnology are possible thus depends largely on whether molecular assemblers are possible.

Initial doubts about their feasibility were resolved some years ago, but more recently people have been raising skeptical claims again. I'm somewhat skeptical of the skeptical claims, in part because of Clarke's First Law ("When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.") and in part because the nanotechnology business community seems to have decided that the best way to deal with people who fear nanotechnology (as a result of things like Michael Crichton's novel Prey -- debunked here by Freeman Dyson in a piece that goes well beyond Crichton to raise lots of interesting points about nano- and bio-technology) is to loudly proclaim that the really scary stuff is impossible. I think that's shortsighted, and more than a touch dishonest, but you can follow the link and see what you think yourself.

And ultimately, of course, this stuff will all be settled in the lab. I know which way I'm betting.

For more background, see my TechCentralStation column on the new nanotechnology bill from last week, and follow the many links it contains. You might also read this post by Howard Lovy. (I've also got video interviews with some of the players here -- just scroll to the bottom).

UPDATE: Here's Ray Kurzweil's commentary on the debate, which has a lot of interesting and useful background on nanotechnology, and the technical and political disagreements around it, that will be especially welcome to those who haven't followed this subject in the past. Kurzweil also includes lots of links and references. Phil Bowermaster has comments, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The Foresight Institute has a press release and a list of FAQS and comments on its website.

THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S PENCHANT FOR SECRECY has apparently found an unlikely admirer:

As investigative reporters and “oppo” researchers flock to Vermont to dig into Howard Dean’s past, they have run into a roadblock. A large chunk of Dean’s records as governor are locked in a remote state warehouse—the result of an aggressive legal strategy designed in part to protect Dean from political attacks.

DEAN—WHO HAS BLASTED the Bush administration for excessive secrecy—candidly acknowledged that politics was a major reason for locking up his own files when he left office last January. He told Vermont Public Radio he was putting a 10-year seal on many of his official papers—four years longer than previous Vermont governors—because of “future political considerations... We didn’t want anything embarrassing appearing in the papers at a critical time.”

Well, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and all that.

ANOTHER CHINESE BLOGGER has been banned, though this is a somewhat different case:

Mu Zimei is both reviled and admired, but she is not ignored. The country's most popular Internet site, Sina.com, credits her with attracting 10 million daily visitors. Another site, Sohu.com, says Mu Zimei is the name most often typed into its Internet search engine, surpassing one occasional runner-up, Mao Zedong.

Her celebrity — which exploded when she posted an explicit online account of her tryst with a Chinese rock star — first seemed to baffle government censors but now has drawn a familiar response. Her forthcoming book was banned this week. She has quit her magazine columnist job and halted her blog, or online diary.

Yet at a time when "Sex and the City" episodes are among the most popular DVD's in China, the Mu Zimei phenomenon is another example of the government's struggle to keep a grip on social change in China. Her writings have prompted a raging debate about sex and women on the Internet, where more people are writing blogs or arguing anonymously about a host of subjects in chat rooms and discussion pages.

I often hear that the Western belief in sex as some sort of liberating force is silly and superficial.

So why are tyrants always so afraid of it? (Thanks to Hylton Joliffe for pointing out this story, which I had missed).

GOOD NEWS: Bush is repealing the steel tariffs.

WAS SADDAM TRYING TO GET WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION? Why, yes, yes he was:

The officials now say they believe that those negotiations — mostly conducted in neighboring Syria, apparently with the knowledge of the Syrian government — were not merely to buy a few North Korean missiles.

Instead, the goal was to obtain a full production line to manufacture, under an Iraqi flag, the North Korean missile system, which would be capable of hitting American allies and bases around the region, according to the Bush administration officials.

Was this an "imminent" threat? Or was it a threat we stopped before it became imminent? Who cares?

UPDATE: Reader James Davila notes that the North Koreans basically wound up ripping off Saddam, and points to this Den Beste post from June. Advantage: Den Beste!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Brendon Carr wonders if this means that Kim Jong-Il really is an evil genius after all. Hmm.

WINDS OF CHANGE has its war roundup and its Iraq roundup posts up. Comprehensive and useful, as always.

November 30, 2003

THE "COMFY-CHAIR REVOLUTION" gets a mention in the L.A. Times.

21 BLOG ENTRIES ON BUSINESS AND ECONOMICS: This week's Carnival of the Capitalists is up.

UPDATE: The permalink doesn't seem to be working, but you can see it here -- just scroll a bit.

EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANITY is reportedly on the upsurge at Harvard, MIT, and other liberal Northeastern schools. Of course, it had nowhere to go but up. An interesting story, though.

BUSINESS WEEK has an interesting article on globalization and India:

This techno take-off is wonderful for India -- but terrifying for many Americans. In fact, India's emergence is fast turning into the latest Rorschach test on globalization. Many see India's digital workers as bearers of new prosperity to a deserving nation and vital partners of Corporate America. Others see them as shock troops in the final assault on good-paying jobs. Howard Rubin, executive vice-president of Meta Group Inc., a Stamford (Conn.) information-technology consultant, notes that big U.S. companies are shedding 500 to 2,000 IT staffers at a time. "These people won't get reabsorbed into the workforce until they get the right skills," he says. Even Indian execs see the problem. "What happened in manufacturing is happening in services," says Azim H. Premji, chairman of IT supplier Wipro Ltd. "That raises a lot of social issues for the U.S."

No wonder India is at the center of a brewing storm in America, where politicians are starting to view offshore outsourcing as the root of the jobless recovery in tech and services.

I'm not surprised.

BLACKFIVE has a list of things you can do to help our troops.

IF YOU BUILD IT, they will cheat. I think that's pretty close to a law of human nature.

THE RETAIL SUPPORT BRIGADE appears to be crushing the morale of America's enemies.

JAILED CHINESE BLOGGER LIU DI, the "Stainless Steel Mouse," has been released. That's excellent news.

ADAM YOSHIDA is a Harvard blogger with some interesting observations on the war.

DEMONSTRATIONS IN KOREA seem to be getting out of hand.

DALE AMON: "The day will come when Iraqi police and government take over everything... and very soon afterwards a large number of Baathists will turn up dead."

Or, even more horrifying, left alive to face this.

UPDATE: Well, these guys will be spared the horror, anyway.

MICKEY KAUS disagrees with the Howard Owens defending-Hillary post I quote below, observing:

If Hillary had gone to Iraq and flat-out blasted Bush, that would have been fine by me. The problem is she smarmily wanted to have it both ways, pretending her trip was in part a morale-building visit to the troops while she griped about the mission the troops were on.

Read the whole thing. (Emphasis in original).

UPDATE: Now Bill Herbert is saying that Kaus is wrong and Owens is right.

No wonder Hillary is such a polarizing figure!

IS ANTI-ZIONISM ANTI-SEMITISM? Emanuel Ottolenghi explores the question in The Guardian.

GUN PERMIT APPLICANTS ARE INCREASINGLY WOMEN, according to this report from the Nashville Tennessean:

Since 2000, the percentage of gun-carry permits issued in the state to women has risen steadily from about 10% to almost 20% of those issued so far this year.

No one is exactly sure why. The reasons given vary from a growing interest in sports shooting among women to the belief that men — who are the majority of gun owners — rushed in to get gun-carry permits when they became more easily available in 1996, while women gradually gained interest. . . .

While the number of women getting permits may be slowly leveling off after rising for a couple of years, several women contacted said they had recommended getting handguns to their female friends.

I don't find this particularly surprising.

UPDATE: Regional differences remain, and some women are unhappy with the more restrictive laws in some states.

I'M AWARDING THIS DETACHMENT of the Retail Support Brigade a Unit Citation. In fact, I'm creating a whole new award, the Order Of The Mad Pony, for conspicuous dedication.

UPDATE: Another retail heroine!